The Living Will Document

Living will when losing mental capacity (f.e. by dementia)

Living will when losing mental capacity (f.e. by dementia)

A living will, also known as advance directive, consists of explaining how you wish to be cared for in the future if you lost mental capacity to decide for yourself. It includes your directives about the medical treatment to be applied in the future.


Warning: this type of document should not be mistaken for the will dealing with goods and assets issues; the living will is a decision to prevent future cruel medical treatments for terminally ill patients. It may be also applicable to patients suffering from a degenerative disease which may lead to their losing mental capacity, and therefore, their capacity to decide for themselves. It is also a valid instrument to provide directives in relation to donation of organs.


This document may be executed before a Notary Public or before three witnesses. Two of these witnesses shall not be relative within the second level of consanguinity neither share any kind of assets with the persons declaring their advance directives.

It is recommended that the living will includes the signatory’s values and reasons and the name of a representative who understands the signatory’s wishes and is willing to struggle to meet his or her directives. It is also recommendable the distribution of copies of this document, including to the lawyer if possible.

The living will may be cancelled at any time if it is destroyed. In this case, copies shall be also recovered; otherwise, a declaration shall be made before witnesses expressing the change of mind in writing or orally.


The issue of living wills: this type of document reflect the testator’s wish to die in dignity, avoiding medical treatments leading to artificial maintenance of life in a persistent vegetative state without hope, or considering these expectations, by application of solutions directly leading to reach an end. This issue is a highly delicate matter, because of the legal and moral consequences which it implies:

1.- This will shall never include provisions leading to obtain illegal results; however, as it is executed in consideration of death,  it may refer to acts which might be legal in that moment, although it may be illegal at the moment of the execution.

2.- The Notary Public shall not try to replace the testator’s moral criteria with his or her own ones, when the grantor tries to decide about his or her own death; that is, the most pathetic sign of the constitutional right to confidentiality.


A State law provides the patient’s right to establish a living will, but the implementation of this right is delegated to regional governments, as well as the creation of registries. Several regional governments have set forth regulations about this issue; the Andalusian act Ley 5/2003 of 9th October, about the declaration of advance living will deals with this issue in Andalusia.
Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)



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